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Women featured in two historical selections

By Staff | Mar 26, 2014

Two new books take a look at historical figures, one a non-fiction work and one a fictionalized accounting of actual events.

Now in paperback is the national bestseller and multiple award-winning “Eighty Days” by Matthew Goodman.

Goodman’s non-fiction work takes a look at two young women journalists, Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland who, in 1889, were attempting to recreated Jules Verne’s character’s trip around the world in less than 80 days.

The book follows both women’s careers in a male-dominated field, as well as their career-changing trip. There is a lot of detail to the time period, the coverage of their trip and how it changed their lives.

This is a very detailed accounting and is very interesting. At 376 pages, it is a bit long, but there is a lot to cover within those pages. Readers interested in the time period or just newspaper coverage in general will enjoy this adventure. It is $16 and published by Ballantine Books.

Inspired by a true story is “Madam” by Cari Lynn and Kellie Martin (yes, the actress Kellie Martin from ‘Life Goes On.’) Taking place in 1897 New Orleans, the story follows Mary Deubler, who one day becomes the infamous Madam Josie Arlington, set against the backdrop of the establishment of Storyville, New Orleans’ legalized red-light district for 20 years.

Mary starts out as a common alley way worker, who shares a small ‘crib’ – pretty much a shack – with a young black woman. Her lecherous uncle “oversees” the two women and when he is jailed, Mary seizes the chance to try to take control of her life as much as she can, to provide for her younger brother and his wife.

When Alderman Sidney Story begins his crusade to set up a particular area for “women of ill repute” to practice their business, Mary’s chance for a way out of the alley is lead by an encounter with a charming politician, Tom Anderson, who sees a chance for both profit and politics to come together in his favor.

It might be a “lurid” subject matter, but “Madam” is captivating and Mary/Josie proves to be a plucky heroine. The atmosphere feels very New Orleans with a lot of jazz, including a few cameos by a young Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton.